Me and Anna took our usual seats on Table 4, against an excellent young Polish pair called Peter and Darius. "My partner is weak in English" said Peter, "so I will explain for both of us.". They were playing a Polish Club system, which has a lot of artificial bids, especially the 1♣ opener. This shows "any 11-14 hand, a medium hand with Clubs, or any 18+ hand".
I've got a bit of experience with Polish Club, as me and Ted used to play it sometimes at Edinburgh University. Together we wrote up the full system notes on a website here. And here's another old article I wrote with all the key bridge terms in Polish (and Greek) - click here.
Anna isn't so familiar with Polish Club, and in the one minute while we shuffled the cards we tried to come up with a bidding defence. I talked very quickly, and Anna had no chance. This could be a long night, against 1st Division opponents playing a funny system.
On the first few hands we actually did OK, and when I made a nice 4♥ I relaxed a bit. Peter and Darius bid a lot of games, maybe thinking they could steal some 3NT contracts, but we defended staunchly. They would sometimes have a rapid fire conversation in Polish between hands, and on more than one occasion declarer showed all his cards to dummy (and us) then we continued playing.
At the break the scores were fairly even. I overheard their team captain saying that the Boards were a bit flat, meaning they hadn't been able to overcome their 1500 point deficit. They needn't have worried, in the second half there were plenty of big swings.
Here's one where me and Anna got a good result, defending against the Polish Club.
East opened the ubiquitous 1♣, showing either a weak hand, medium hand with Clubs, or a strong hand. The defence I'd hurriedly suggested to Anna was that overcalls of 1♣ were natural, but that we would have special meanings for double and 1NT. Double shows Majors, 1NT shows Minors. Here I just made a simple overcall of 1♥. I'm pretty weak but I like to get in quickly if the opponents have a potentially strong hand.
Me and Anna support each other without much, and Anna can always be relied on to give a courtesy raise. Here she found a fine 2♥ bid, also with a rubbish hand. East then came in with 2♠ showing that this time his 1♣ opener was the strong hand. He's got a full 25 points. I'm not sure why he bid 2♠ rather than doubling (or even bidding 3♣). Anyway, his bid is forcing, as it shows 18+, without any upper limit. So West shouldn't pass, but he did. If you're ever going to pass partner's forcing bid, West has the right hand to do it, a very flat one count. Also he might have thought me and Anna were a bit stronger for our bids, leaving less points for his partner.
2♠ was passed out, and East wasn't happy. I lead the ♥Q and he took the ♥A and started on Clubs. Me and Anna kept forcing him in Hearts, and he kept ruffing in hand. Eventually, he lead the last Spade from dummy. Anna won it with the ♠9. Declarer was lucky, as our Spades split 3-3, and even luckier that it was Anna who won the last one and not me, as by that point Anna had no more Hearts to cash. So declarer lost just one Club and two trumps for 2♠+2. This might have looked like they had missed a game, but really 4♠ is a very bad contract, and 3NT fails on a Heart lead. I suppose you can make 5♣, but it's hard to get there. If they choose to defend 2♥x it probably goes two off. So I'm not sure what happened at the other tables, but actually 2♠+2 might have been quite a good result for East-West.
Later I was feeling quite bold and took the unprecedented step of raising Anna's 1♠ response with only three Spades. She didn't mind as she had six of them, and made 4♠ exactly. On the penultimate Board Anna opened 1♠ and again I was bold, this time raising here with just an Ace and no other points. Again we ended up in 4♠, this time doubled. It had a chance to make, all depending on playing this trump suit for no losers:
|♠ A Q T x x x|
|♠ 9 x x x|
Since West had doubled Anna went for a Spade to the ten, which ruefully lost to East's singleton Jack. 4♠x-1.
On the very last Board it was my turn to get doubled.
East opened 2♣, which showed 11-14 and six Clubs, or five Clubs and four of a Major. Basically it's the sort of hand we'd open1♣, but they have to open 2♣ as they use 1♣ already for something else. We'd not got round to discussing a defence to this, and previously when they bid it we had a mix up and missed game. This time I overcalled 2♠ and Anna showed no hesitation in boosting me up to 4♠. East doubled this, and Anna apologised when she put dummy down. But I think she's got her bid, I'm maybe at fault for stretching a bit with the 2♠ overcall.
West lead the ♣K, and I had a look at dummy. There was no way I could make this contract, as I had at least four losers in the minors. The best I could hope for was one off. East continued with another Club to East's Ace. East cashed two Diamonds and I was already one off. The came the defensive coup d'etat. East lead a third Club, and West was able to ruff with her singleton ♠Q, higher than all the trumps in dummy. So we finished with 4♠x-2, for 500 points out. Looking at all four hands it looks like West can probably make Four Hearts, but with an eleven card fit North-South are always playing 4♠, though probably not always doubled. "Dobre kontra" I said to East.
After we had finished there was still one table playing, so we all had to wait and see what happened there. Could we hang on? After all the scores were added we had lost the match by a few hundred points, but with our 1500 point bonus we scraped through to the next round.
A famous victory!